tv PBS News Hour PBS March 28, 2012 5:30pm-6:30pm PDT
insurance mandate, can the rest of the law survive? good evening, i'm gwen ifill. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. on the "newshour" tonight: betty ann bowser wraps up today's developments and marcia coyle and susan dentzer examine what happened in court, including a challenge to expanding the medicaid program. >> ifill: plus, judy woodruff asks two members of congress what's at stake once the court act illinois publan peter roskam and arizona democrat raul grijalva. >> brown: then, margaret warner reports on the prospect of an israeli attack on iran's nuclear sites: what might happen and the potential consequences. >> the only thing that's completely supper is that iran does respond. there's no way iran doesn't
respond. it will respond against israel primarily. >> ifill: we look at pope benedict's call for greater religious freedom in cuba, and at his meeting with fidel castro, as he winds up a three- day visit. >> brown: and hari sreenivasan has the story of the two billion dollar deal to sell the los angles dodgerso a group led by former n.b.a. great, magic johnson. >> all he has to do is walk into the stadium, and it will fill the house. he's the greatest basketball player ever, and now we've got the greatest owner ever. >> ifill: that's all ahead on tonight's "newshour." major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> and by the bill and melinda gates foundation. dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy producti life. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and...
this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> brown: what, if anything, of president obama's health care overhaul will survive? that was the question after the u.s. supreme court wrapped up three days of hearings this afternoon. today the justices considered what happens to the broader law, if they strike down the requirement to buy insurance. they also looked at the expansion of medicaid. once again tonight, "newshour" health correspondent betty ann bowser begins our coverage. >> reporter: the morning arguments focused on whether parts of the law could survive without the mandate, the so- called severability issue. justice ruth bader ginsburg questioned attorney paul clement about the logic of revoking the entire law. clement represents 26 states opposed to it.
>> i mean, it's a question of whether we say everything you do is no good, now start from scratch, or to say, yes, there are many things in here that have nothing to do frankly with the affordable healthcare and there are some that we think it's better to let congress to decide whether it wants them in or out. so why should we say it's a cice twe a ecking operation, which is what you are requesting, or a salvage job. and the more conservative approach would be salvage rather than throwing out everything. >> what makes this different is that the provisions that have constitutional difficulties or are tied at the hip to those provisions that have the constitutional difficulty are the very heart of this act. and then if you look at how they are textually interconnected with the exchanges, which are then connected to the tax credits, which are so
connected to the employer mdate whih is so connected to some of the revenue offsets, which is also connected to medicaid, if you follow that through what you end up with at the end of that process is just sort of a hollow shell. >> reporter: this afternoon, the justices took up the final issue before them this week and that's the expansion of medicaid under the affordable care act. medicaid is a shared federal- state program to provide healthcare for people with low incomes. participation is voluary, but currently all 50 states are in the program. though little public attention has focused on the expansion of medicaid, it's a vital component of the law. half of the 32 million people who would get new coverage would receive it through medicaid. here's how that would work: starting in 2014, the federal government would pick up 100% of the cost of newly eligible parents and childless adults. that starts to ramp down in
2017, when the government pays 95%. by 2020 moving forward, the federal government would pay 90% of the ta states have the right to opt-out of the medicaid program, but if they do, they would lose huge amounts of federal money to pay for care for people with low incomes. >> obamacare is going to expand medicaid and the taxpayers can't afford it. >> reporter: several dozen people demonstrated in front of the court again today against what they say is an overreach of federal power. thomas miller is a resident fellow at the american enterprise institute, a conservative think tank in washington. >> the states say we can't even afford the current medicaid program, and this would in effect give them no flexibility to make any adjustments, reasonable adjustments, maybe can cover more people in a certain way, but not under the rigid federal rules.
>> reporter: people who say they've been helped by medicaid came to the mike today outside the court to tell their stories. >> as a doctor, i tell you medicaid works for seniors, kids, people with disabilities and families. >> reporter: ron pollack, executive director of families u.s.a., also says that ultimately states will save money under the law, even with higher costs for medicaid. >> if you take the affordable care act in its entirety, the states actually are going to save in the aggregate $100 billion in the next six years, because they're no longer going to have to pay for people who are uninsured. >> reporter: the justices will now have to weigh the merits of all four major arguments made this week. decisions are expected sometime in late june. >> ifill: as betty ann bowser mentioned there were two
separate arguments on the health care docket today. here to explain is the team that's been covering the case for us: marcia coyle of the "national law journal" and "newshour" health analyst susan dentzer, editor in chief of the journal health affairs. so mash athe justices seemed skeptical that this bill-- that this law can remain intact, even if this individual mandate goes away, the severability clause. explain how that played out. >> okay, well, here's sort of the bottom line for the court. all of the justices seem not to want to have to go through 2,700 page law to find out which provisions are interrelated or so connected to the individual mandate that they should be severed. so what do they do? justice sotomayor, for example, expressed one approach. states that have experimented with health care insurance like the federal plan, when they've had problems, their state
legislatures have adapted to those, have made changes. so she said why not let congress do this? if we have to eliminate the mandate, let congress deal with the problem. that is their function. it's an exercise of judicial restraint to let congress deal with it. on the other hand, justices scalia and kennedy said, but if the mandate is really the heart of this law, as mr. clement argues, what is left for congress is this shell. it does not operate the way congress intended to operate. so it's been distorted so much, maybe we-- it's more an exercise of judicial restraint to strike it down and let congress start over. >> ifill: part of this exchange, between justice anthony kennedy edwin kneedler, who is make the government's case, about just that form. >> if the 350 million from the individual mandate were to be lost, what would happen to the insurance industry which would
now be in the hole for $350 billion over 10 years? >> we don't think it's in the court's place to look at the budgetary implications . >> but isn't that-- isn't that the point then, whyee should just assume it is not severable? if we lack the confidence to even assess whether there's a risk, then isn't this an awesome exer size of judicial power? >> no, i don't-- >> soa to say, we're doing someg and we're not telling you what theonsequences might be. >> no, i don't think so. when you're talking about monetary consequences, you're looking through the act. you're looking behind the act. the court's function is to look at the text and structure of the act and what the substantive provisioning of the act itself mean. >> ifill: so what role are the justices supposed to play in this? that's what they were arguing about. >> absolutely. really, for years, the court has had something of a presumption,
when it strikes down one provision in a law, it will not dismantle the entire law if there are-- if that law can coinue to operate independently of the provision that was struck down and consistent with congress' intent, and that's why mr. needler is saying, look at the text. look at the structure. but don't try to be economists figuring out how it will affect the insurance industry. >> ifill: let's talk about that, what the congress' intent. we don't even the court will strike down this part of the statute, but if they were to, what remains? is it a hollow shell as some of the justicees were saying. >> a close reading of those 2700 pages would find plenty in there that does not mean the standard of a hollow shell, gwen. for example, some provisions, very small, completely unrelated to insurance expansion, requirement that national chain restaurants, as of this year, have to post on their menus the
calorie content of their food. why that would have to fall in conjunction with the minimum coverage requirement, it doesn't make sense. , provisions to make the health care system cost less a be more efficient. so lots of innovations around payment and delivery system reform that are already going on. in addition to that, many, many other provisions around prevention, to get americans to be healthier, a large prevention and public health fund that is channeling grants from the federal government to the states and communities to put in place diabetes prevention programs and other things. so if you walk through the whole law, there is a whole lot, as i said, that has nothing to do with the minimum coverage requirement diswhrief and how big a part of the law is the part they were arguing about later this afternoon, which is the expansion of medicaid that betty anne was describing? >> a very major part. if we think about health insurance as being a series of security blankets and we have
security blankets of different types. we have private coverage, some of us. some of us have medicare. some of us have medicaid. what this whole law was about was stretching all the blankets, right. so the private health insurance blanket was going to be stretched to incorporate more people into that. the medicaid blanket got stretched. a very large group of people who have historically been left out of medicaid, as betty anne said in her piece are, adults with-- who don't have dependent children. congress made a point of covering pregnant women, congress made a point of covering women with children. congress left out these adults who didn't have dependent children. so on the basis of this law, congress said, you know what? we forgot about these people? we're going to come back and expand coverage and include them. and although the congressional budget office has said there will probably be 16 million of them, the truth swe don't know. there could be 22 or 25 million of those adults who could be covered under medicaid. >> ifill: and 26 state
represented by the former solicitor general, paul clement, said today they feel they would be coerced to join this program. let's listen to part of the exchange between justice sonia sotomayor, and paul clement, about this very issue. >> the uninsured are a problem for states, only because they, too, politically, just like the federal government, can't let the poor die. and so, to the extent they don't want to do that, it's because they feel accountability to the saturdayry, and so if they want to do it this wear, they have to spend money to do it their way. if they don't want to do it the federal way. so i just don't understand the logic of saying states, you-- you're not entitled to our money. but once you start taking it,
the more you take, the more power you have. >> we're not here to tell you this is going to be an area where it's going to be very easy to draw the line. we're just telling you it's exceptionally important to draw that line, and this is a case where it ought to be easy to establish a beachhead, say that coercion matters, say there's three factors of this particular statute that make it as obviously coercive as any piece of legislation that you've ever seen, and then you will have effectively instructed congress that there are limits and you have laid down some administrable rules. >> ifill: why does coercion matter, marcia why is it an important part of the argument? >> well, first of all, the court has said in the past, in a couple decisions, there may come a point under congress' spending power, where inducements to have the states do something in exchange for federal funds crosses the line from inducement or pressure to coercion, and
then congress is acting outside of the limits of its spending power. and its spending power is broad and huge. so-- but the court has never said where that line is, where that point is reached. and it's also never struck down a voluntary federal-state spending program because it's coercive. and there was a lot of skepticism today. i think this was one of mr. clement's more difficult arguments to make. the justices are struggling with finding where that line of coercion is. justice sotomayor, justice kagan, they don't see that know-- they look-- i think justice kag said, th is a boat load of money and very few strings are attached to it. states still have the option of pulling out, sles slis tergeneral virilli, said sure, it's not an easy decision to opt out of it, but they have the
choice. >> ifill: they both gave summations at the end. one made the argument that represented the administration that this health care law was about the blessings of liberty. and paul clement said it's a funny conception of liberty. >> mr. virilli, i think, tried to bring back today from three days of arguments what's really at stake here in terms of congress' authority under the constitution. he said congress struggled with this problem of 43 million uninsured americans and it came up with this solution, which it thought was the pest solution. with medicaid, expansion, he said there will be millions of americans who have chronic conditions, such as diabetes, who now, if they get health care will be unshackled from that disease and will be able to enjoy the blessings of liberty. mr. clement, though, did say it was a very funny concept of liberty to force people to buy insurance plans they don't want. >> ifill: decision in june. thank you both for helping us
through this this week. >> brown: we'll continue our coverage of the health care story with reaction from representatives roskam and grijalva. also coming up, the prospect of war between iran and israel; the pope's cuba visit and a big baseball deal. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: republican presidential caidate newt gingrich confirmed tod he is runng low on mey and drastically scaling back his campaign. gingrich laid off one-third of his campaign staff last night, and asked his campaign manager to resign. he spoke today with wtop radio in washington and said he'll use social media to get his message out. >> sreenivasan: meanwhile, officials with mitt romney's campaign said today they expect an endorsement from former president george herbert walker bush. the two men will meet in houston tomorrow.
rising supplies of crude oil in the u.s. pushed prices down for a change today, and depressed energy stocks. that, in turn, sent wall street into a broader retreat. the dow jones industrial average lost 71 points to close at 13,126. the nasdaq fell 15 points to close below 3,105. a jetblue airways captain has now been charged with interfering with a flight crew. it happened tuesday on a flight from new york to las vegas. court documents say clatyton osbon ran through the plane, yelling about terrorists, before passengers wrestled him down. he was taken away in restraints after the plane made an emergency landing in amarillo, texas. osbon remained in a local hospital today, under medical evaluation. in syria, government forces captured the northern town of saraqeb overnight, after four days of fighting there killed more than 40 people. it was the latest in a series of rebel strongholds to fall. opposition groups also reported clashes today in several other cities in the central and eastern parts of the country. the new fighting came a day after president bashar al-assad said he accepted a u.n. plan to
resolve the year-ng conflict. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to jeff. >> brown: and we come back to the health care reform issue with a focus on the political implications. judy woodruff is in charge. >> woodruff: for congressional perspective we are joined from capitol hill by two members of the house. representative raul grijalva, a democrat from arizona and representative peter roskam, the g.o.p. deputy whip. he's from illinois and was in the courtroom today. congressmen, thank you both for joining us. i want to jus start by asking you both-- i want to try to take your temperature. representative grijalva, how are you and your allies feeling after three days of these arguments before the court? are you feeling as if the law is going to be upheld, and it's going to go your way? >> yeah, i think the sense of optimism is always difficult to gauge. but i think we have history on our side. every time there has been a
point in this nation's history, whether it was the issue of civil rights, issue of education and access, the supreme court has stepped in to close that divisiveness and to extend the common good and welfare to the american people. this is that kind of case with historic implications and because of history, i feel that the court will do the right thing. >> woodruff: and representative roskam, what about you and your allies, take your temperature. are you feeling that the case-- that the court will do the ma-- the majority will go as you want them to and that is strike the law down? >> i'm feeling like most plernz, according to the "new york times," only one in four americans thinks that the court should leave this law intact. and i think most folks, the more they found out, they've been disappointed in it, and they want to see it repealed and replaced. so i was at the hearing this morning that was focused in on the severability issue. and based on the nature of the questions-- and i know it's dangerous to speculate and to
over-interpret-- but based on the nature of the questions, i would be surprised if the law comes through with the unblemissed imprim it'sure of the united states supreme court. >> woruff: staying with you, congressman, roskam, if the court rules that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and much or all of this law falls, what happens? >> well, then congress has the opportunity to revisit it, and i would argue, to do that in a more thoughtful way. one of the criticisms of the passage of the bill originally was it didn't get the type of vetting that would have been helpful to create a conscious-- consensus to drive forth with two maj themes-- and this is where i think president obama missed an opportunity, and that is to focus in on cost reduction, dealing with preexisting conditions in a patient-centered way. so if the court strikes down the entire bill, we generally have a national consensus that says we need to revisit this, and put these themes in place, and i
think that we can do it but we can do it in a way that doesn't have an adverse impact on doctor-patient relationship and doesn't have an adverse impact on cost, which you've just seen, even according to the congressional budget office is accelerating at a rate at which they didn't actually contemplate. >> woodruff: representative grijalva, let me put that questioto you, if the court decides to say that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and they knock down much or all of the law, as much as we've been hearing the last few days, what do you think the practical consequences would be? >> the practical consequences cs that we're still dealing with the reality-- 45 million people uninsured. this law will take to us 30 million that will receive insurance by 2014. preexisting conditions, as a denial point for insurance, is prohibited under this law. kid under 26, stil being able to be carried by their parents on their insurance. community ratings so that
insurance companies tell the community why their premiums are going up. the 80/20 rule, that 8% of the money shrnls companies get must go to patient health care and i think the most important thing is beginning to strike a balance. this whole law was about a compromise. the individual mandate is a heritage foundation idea, promoted by romney and newt gingrich. so as we go forward, i think it will be a big win if it's struck down for the private insunce carriers, and a huge loss for the american people. we'll see more uninsured and we'll see price goes up and up regarding health care. >> woodruff: well, let me come back to you, congressman roskam, on that point, that's a pretty dark scenario that your colleague there is painting. why wouldn't that be the result if the court knocks much of this law down? >> well, let's put it in the totality of the situation. president obama, when he was advocating the law originally, said that you'd get to keep the coverage that you have if you like it, and that's turned out
not to be true. that it was going to be a cost saver. that's turned out not to be true. i have constituent companies and small businesses in my district, judy, that have said they are unwilling to expand their business and hire new full-time people based on the adverse impact of the cost of this new health care law. so i think where raul and i would be able to come together is to say, look, there's nobody that wants to defend the status quo-- that is, you can focus in on things that drive costs down, which makes health care more affordable, and you can focus in onundg high-risk pools that deal with preexisting conditions, and i think that there's a very thoughtful way to move forward. it's my hope-- go ahead. >> woodruff: i want to ask you about that because justice kennedy referred to that today. he refer to the ability of congress to come together if the court decides to knock much of this down. he said reworking health care, if they did that, would fall to
"the real congress or hypothetical congress" raising questions about whether congress can come together on questions of health care. >> look, it's incumbent up us to drive towards a solution that i think deals with two core themes-- that is, getting health care costs so that they're manageable and predictable in a positive way. and dealing with the cumulative social cost of dealing with preexisting conditions. i think that we can do this. and i am absolutely convinced we can. >> woodruff: congressman grijalva let me turn, frankly, to a purely political perspective. what happens if the court knocks much of this lawaside orown? wh is the democratic party do? what does it mean for president obama? >> i think what the democratic party does in congress is if it's struck down, is to pursue the agenda that we started with-- affordability, access to health care for the medicine and millions of americans that don't
have any insurance coverage. and with that, comes the attention of the american people on congress to see what we craft. and i would-- i would beg to say that the fundamental differences will be about access coverage and cost controls. they continue to be preeminent in this whole debate and if comes back to the house the american people will sit in judgment about who is trying to extend the benefit to the majority of the american people and who is restricting and listening to insurance companies in terms of what direction to do health care. we've listened to them in the past and this is why we have the mess we have. >> woodruff: representative grijalva, staying with you, how much would the president be hurt politically? is this a centerpiece of his administration. >> i thk the president would have to rise to this occasion, and he has in the past. i don't see it as a direct damage to president obama. i see it as-- i think the
american people will see it as a direct damage to them and to the costs they're having to incur with health care. crafting a different solution becomes the problem of congress, and the president will have a huge role in resolving this issue one more time. >> woodruff: conversely, congressman, rosam, if the court does decide to uphold the law, or say it casts aside the individual mandate but says the rest of the law can stand, what does that mean politically in this election year? >> so, there's two questions there. if the law is upheld entirely by the court-- i don't think that's likely-- but if it is you would have ultimately a referendum question this november, where the country says they either approve of that decision by the obama administration to enact this law, or not. and that will be-- that will manifest itself in the course o the presidential campaign. now, if they strike down part of
this-- so, for example, if they strike down the individual mandate and leave the other pieces intact-- then you've got a huge funding problem, and i would suggest that that is an outcome that would please nobody. >> woodruff: gentlemen, we're going to leave it there. we've got a little sometime to think about it until we know what the court does. representative raul grijalva, and represent ross. >> brown: online, we have extensive coverage of the healthcare reform law. you can listen to theudiof today's arguments or read the transcript. we also have more reporting from marcia coyle. plus, we asked two policy analysts for their opinions on the constitutionality of the medicaid expansion. that's all at newshour.pbs.org. >> ifill: amid growing nervousness about the prospect of an attack, margaret warner reports on the possible repercussions of strikes and counterstrikes between israel and iran.
>> reporter: some 1,000 protestors marched in tel aviv last weekend, urging the israeli government not to attack iran's nuclear facilities. "bibi, don't bomb iran," the posters read, calling israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu by his nickname. the protest reflected mounting concern among israelis that their leaders may be on the verge of launching a pre-emptive strike against iran's expanding nuclear program. though the iranian regime has vowed to destroy the jewish state, recent polls in israel show only 19% would support thir government attacking iran unilaterally. alarm is growing in washington as well that an israeli strike may be in the offing with unpredictable consequences for the region and the united states. >> already, there is too much loose talk of war. >> reporter: to the american- israel political action committee early this month, president obama made a major commitment-- he will prevent,
not simply contain a nuclear- armed iran. >> the president continued to argue for giving sanctions and diplomacy more time to work. >> whe >> when i say all options are on the table, i mean it. having said that, i know that both the prime minister and i refer to solve this diplomatically. we understand the costs of any military action. >> reporter: yet that evening, netanyahu told the aipac gathering that as far as israel is concerned, time is running out. >> my friends, israel has waited patiently, waited for the internationalommunity to resolve this issue. we've waited for diplomacy to work. we've waited for sanctions to work. none of us can afford to wait much longer. >> i think it's highly plausible that israel would decide to strike iran's nuclear facilities
sometime this year. >> reporter: jeffrey goldberg, who talks frequently with senior israeli and u.s. officials is national correspondent for "the atlantic." he says the two allies don't share the same timetable on when pre-emptive actn might be called for because israel doesn't have the military might that the u.s. does. >> the israelis believe they have a shorter window of opportunity. they believe the iranians are building redundancy into their systems. right now, you're talking about five or six or eight different nuclear sites. but another year, it's going to be 12 or 16 or 20. the calculations are-- there's going to come a point when we no longer can do this. this is what they tell me. we're not going to be able to do this in six or nine or 12 months. and then it's going to be up to the united states to deal with this issue and we don't want to be too dependent on the united states for that. the israelis don't want to subcontract out their existence or that guarantee of their existence to any country, even their best friend in the world, the united states of america. >> reporter: days after
>> reporter: the notion that israel could attack iran's nuclear facilities-- as it did in iraq three decades ago, and syria in 2007 is not new. but israel's timeline acquired more urgency recently. austin long, defense analyst and assistant professor at columbia university. >> the israelis have a really robust military capability to destroy the key parts of the iranian nuclear facilities or the nuclear program. >> reporter: those include the uranium enrichment site at natanz and the processing plants at isfahan. but there's a newer, harder-to- attack enrichment facility-- revealed in late 2009-- that's buried under 300 feet of rock at fordow, near the holy city of qom. >> so, this is an incredibly challenging target. much more challenging than natanz or any of the other facilities. >> reporter: to get at these facilities, the most direct route for israeli warplanes would be due east across jordan and iraq. to most sites, long said, iael will likely deploy its modified f-16 jets carrying 2,000-pound bunker-buster bombs.
to fordow, its f-15 jets carrying 5,000 as well as 2,000- pound bombs. but those bombs would have to hit with unprecedented precision. >> it would require six or seven 5,000 pound bunker busters sort of impacting one after another at the same spot. you would have opened essentially a crack or a tunnel down through 80, 90 meters of rock. the idea would be to have one bomb that finally went althe way through into the space where the centrifuges are and then exploded. >> these are very accurate weapons, but getting seven bombs to sort of line up would require using many more than seven bombs on the same point. so you're talking the israelis would have to drop 75 or more weapons on the same aim point to have any confidence at all that this would work. now the problem with that is >> reporter: even if that operation works, no one's sure how long it would set iran's program back. even more imponderable is how would iran respond?
and what would be the fallout for israel, the middle east and the united states? >> the only thing completely certain is that iran responds. there's no way it doesn't respond. it will respond against israel primarily. >> reporter: matthew levitt heads the counterterrorism and intelligence program at the washington institute for near east policy. >> it really all comes down to how extensive is the strike, the israeli strike? how badly is the nuclear program hurt in that strike and therefore how severe do the iranians feel they need to respond to such an attack? they understand they'll be inviting a response to their response. >> reporter: last week, the supreme leader ayatollah ali khamenei promised swift retaliation if any iranian nuclear sites are hit. >> we do not possess nuclear weapons, nor we will make them, but in the face of enemy attacks, whether it is america or the zionist regime, in
defense of ourselves, we will attack them at the same level they have attacked us. >> reporter: but there's argumenabout whether iran would carry rough on that threat. >> if iran should engage in a direct military attack against israel, there's always the risk of u.s. involvement, and the islamic republic would do anything in its power to avoid u.s. intervention in such a conflict. >> reporter: ali alfoneh, a resident fellow with the american enterprise institute in washington, believes that risk will keep iran from retaliating directly against israeli military targets. >> and they know that if they start a conflict which would run, spin out of control, and which would involve the united states, that would be a very, very costly conflict. >> reporter: there's another option, alfoneh said, more advantageous to iran and the future of its nuclear program. >> on the diplomatic front, iran would, first of all, mobilize the world opinion against israel and depict itself as a victim of
israeli aggression. at the same time, such an attack would also legitimize iran leaving the non-proliferation treaty because within the treaty there are legal ways of leaving it if the national security of the country is in danger. >> i don't find it plausible that if iran is attacked, it sits back and says i'm going some diplomatic route, leave the n.p.t. and that's it. that's not how the iranians operate. that's not how this regime would operate. this would be a shot directly at the revolutionary regime. they would certainly respond against israel and they would >> reporter: iran has many tools at its disposal-- its own missiles, its revolutionary guard and elite quds strike force-- hezbollah militants to israel's north in lebanon, and hamas and other militants in gaza to israel's south. levitt thinks iran would employ some or all of those to hi multiple targets in the crowded middle east and persian gulf neighborhood, where u.s. warships patrol.
>> and it would very likely carry out attacks using those tools, targeting israeli, jewish and probably other american and western targets as well. we'd see rockets falling on us bases in the gulf and we'd probably see some sort of effort to block the strait. >> reporter: absurd, says alfoneh, the iranian leadership, is not suicidal. >> iran and the iranian regime is much more interested in survival than in revenge. and that is the policy that they have shown for many, many years. >> reporter: but jeffrey goldberg sees a danger of escalation even if tehran's senior leaders choose caution over retaliation. >> i find a third argument even more plausible, which is that an accident will happen. in other words, the persian gulf is filled with these small iranian speed boats run by the iranian revolutionary guard corps. and all it takes is one hyperactive commander acting on his own to ram, or try to ram a u.s. ship, and then all hell breaks loose, and its not because the regime even wanted
it. but then you enter into a cycle of escalation that could be extremely dangerous for the united states. >> reporter: it is just this unpredictability that keeps washington policymakers and many israeli citizens up at night. >> brown: next, pope benedict the 16th winds up his three-day visit to cuba with a challenge to the castro government. the pope was received by hundreds of thousands of cubans today in havana's revolution plaza. at a mass, he called for greater freedom for the roman catholic church, and warned, indirectly, against government repression. >> ( translated ): on the other hand there are those who wrongly interpret this search for the truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism; they close themselves up in their truth and try to impose it on others. >> brown: it was the closest benedict came to direct criticism of cuba's communist regime with president raul
castro seated in the front row. later, the pontiff met with former president fidel castro, for about half an hour. earlier in the week, en route to cuba from mexico, the pope had told reporters that it is: "evident that the marxist ideology in the way that it was conceived no longer responds to reality." after arriving in cuba, benedict generally used less direct language. on tuesday, at a shrine to the virgin mary in santiago, he called for renewal. >> ( translated ): i have also ayed to the virgin for the needs of those who sfer, of those who are deprived of freedom, those who are separated from their loved ones or who are undergoing times of difficulty. >> brown: but a top cuban official said that while the country is making economic changes, the one-party political system will remain. >> ( translated ): in cuba, there will be no political reforms. in cuba we are talking about the actualization of the cuban economic model that will make our socialism viable. this has to do with the well- being of our people.
>> brown: in recent years, the government has allowed the church to play a more active role. but there was little or no apparent contact between e pope and cuban dissidents. notably absent from the papal agenda and at today's mass were cuban dissidents. amnesty international said security forces harassed dissidents and kept them away from today's mass and other events. the pope did not meet with members of the ladies in white a movement of wives and female relatives of jailed dissidents, which disappointed some. >> ( translated ): we think it's a shame because the holy father will not leave with a true vision of what is happening here in cuba. >> brown: benedict's visit followed the first ever and emotionally-charged papal visit, in 199 by john paul the second. for more on the pope's visit to cuba we turn to nick miroff, who covers latin america for the "washington post" and the international news website, globalpost. he's based in havana and mexico city. and, ann louise bardach, an author and journalist who's written extensively on cuba.
her latest book is "without fidel." nick miroff, what do we know about this meeting between the pope and fidel castro? >> well, they met for about 30 minutes, so it was a brief meeting. and this was just before the pope's departure back to rome, and after the mass he celebrated this morning in havana's plaza of the revolution. we don't know too much about what they talked about, other than fidel asking him if there were any changes to the catholic liturgy, since, as you may remember, fidel and his brother, raul, both went to jesuit school as young boys growing up here in cuba. >> brown: nick, you were in revolution square today for the public mass. tell us about it. what was the atmosphere? what was it like? >> in some ways it was kind of like a political rally, only the banners hanging from the government buildings didn't say,
"socialism," or "death" or "long live the revolution." they said, "jesus and mary and charity unites us. i think today was a national holiday for cubans, and the turnout in the square was significant, but, you know, compared to some of the political rallies that the government organizes here, it seemed a little bit thin. so i think for cuban catholics, especially, it was a great day. and very exciting. but i don't know if the rest of the population and other secular cubans would see it as significant. >> brown: ann louise bardach, what's your reading of it? it looks as though the pope pushed a bit and then the government pushed back some. what do you see? >> well, i think you have to look at this visit relative to the famous visit in 1998 of john paul, and there was definitely reduced expectations and reduced
excitement. with john paul or ron pablo, it was tremendous. it was packed, the plaza of the revolution. it was over one million people. i was in it, and the excitement was palpable. we didn't have that this time. it was a very significant opening, and this one has been--un, the people who really wanted to go were the dssident and opposion ices in cuba, and they were barred from going, some of whom were arrested in the days previous, and a lot of people who didn't want to go were bussed in. so there's a certain irony there, but definitely benedict is not john paul. but it's an opening, and in some ways, it enhances the role of the catholic church and the archbishop of havana, enhances their role as most important
n.g.o. in cuba. >brow nick miroff, tell a ittle bit more abo that, about the role of the church, ien, how it has changed. how much clout does it have? >> well, ironically, even though i think, you know, the number of cubans who regularly attend mass is something like less than 10%, the institutional profile of the church has increased in recent years, and that's mostly because the cuban government, especially raul castro, has sought and that is interested, i think, in having a partner who can help bh cope withthe changes that the-- the economic changes that the government is trying to do here, and generate support for those types of reforms, and, also, i think the government is very much worried about what they would call an erosion in values, and is also looking to the church for help, and trying to find common ground on things that they do agree with. so in some ways, it's a partnership with the church
nudging the government gently along in the direction of the change. >> brown: that's an intesting word ann louise bardach "partner," "partnership." what do you think the government wanted to get out of this particular visit, then? you compared it to the last one. what about this one? what did they want to get out of it? >> i think so they wanted to enhance their perception that they're diplomatic, that they can play on the world stage, and also, remember, there's saikdary plot line going on here. hugo shaefsz, who was actually a very devout catholic, happened to be in cuba at the very, very same time for treatment of a very serious grave cancer, probably colorectal cancer, and they're in a very tough little position here if a future without hugo chavez really puts cuba in peril. so i think they're looking at what else, you know. we have to open to the world, as john paul told them to do in
1998. but in terms of political reform coming out of this, i mean, right away, we had a top minister slam that hammer down, and he said there will be no political reform. those were his exact words. >> brown: and were yo-- i'm sry, excuse me but were you surprise thaltd pope did not meet with any of the dissidents? >> not entirely. but i thought at the very least he could have spoken to the authorities and said at least allow the ladies in whierkt one of the most notable groups, that is completely involved with church activities, to attend. and as i understand it, they were not allowed to attend. and particularly, in santiago, where he held the other mass which is in the church where raul and fidel castro's morning, lena, used to go to pray for the welfare of her two sons, very
interesting kind of back-story about that church there. and particularly, in santiago, there was a lot of repression. and in fact somebody stood up at one point and said, "down with communism." and he said at one point, "i haven't been paid to say anything." and then he said, "libbertad, liberty, freedom." and he was, of course, promptly taken away. that's about the biggest expression of outrage we have seen on this visit. i think there will be some expressions later that they wished the pope had reached out more to opposition. >> brown: nick miroff, very briefly, did the vatican say why there were not such meetings? >> no, i didn't hear any explanation for that. and i would-- i would agree with anne louise on most of the these points. i think this w in? way, good strip tripp fo the cubachurch are the vacan, and the can government, but obviously, cuba's dissident
movement is going to be disappointed as well as other cast roopponents abroad, and i think most cubans sort of saw this as blah. >> brown: nick miroff and ann louise bardach, thank you both very much. we taped that interview earlier this evening. later, just before leaving what van apope benedict again criticized the 50-year-old u.s. trade embargo on cuba. >> ifill: finally tonight, a record-setting deal for one of baseball's most storied teams and more recently, one of its most troubled. hari sreenivasan has our story. >> sreenivasan: earvin magic johnson ran the fast break like no other for the los angeles lakers. now, 20 years after he left basketball, this icon of one l.a. team is looking to revive another across town: baseball's dodgers. >> he was the greatest basketball player ever, now
we've got the greatest owner ever. >> sreenivasan: johnson is part of a group that sealed a deal last night to buy the dodgers for a record $2.1 billion-- the most ever paid for a sports franchise. >> he's going to manage the team right and the dodgers will be looking up! >> sreenivasan: that would be a welcome change. 54 years after the team left brooklyn, the legendary dodgers are at a low ebb, on and off the field. the club declared bankruptcy last june, hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. baseball commissioner bud selig installed an overseer to monitor owner frank mccourt, alleging he'd mismanaged the anchise and used team money to fund his very public and very bitter divorce. meanwhile, the dodgers haven't won a world series since 1988 and last year, they fell short of the three million attendance mark for the first time in 20 years. the new owners will try to turn that around, if their deal wins approval by a federal bankruptcy judge and baseball's owners.
for a closer look at all this, i am joined by bill shaikin who has been reporting on the story extensively for the "los ngeles times." he joins us tonight from ne york. thanks for being with us. >> sure. >> sreenivasan: first, i have to ask, are the dodgers or any team worth $2 billion? >> well, they're worth what somebody is willing to pay for them. and frank mccourt, the outgoing owner, was able to get major league baseball to let him sell the team at an auction, rather than let baseball steer it to a preferred bidder. that might have ultimately doubled the final purchase price. >> sreenivasan: what's the logic behind it? how do they plan to make this kind of money back? >> wl, it's a lg-te invement, and i dothin anyodyoesntoporeams thinking it's the year-over-year profit so much as the appreciation and franchise value. in this case, the dodgers are also fortunate in terms of timing because their television contract expires at the end of next year. there are two cable giants in los angeles who are going to fight tooth and nail to get the
dodger games. the dodgers also have the leverage to start their own channel, much like the yankees or the red sox, and there are people who think that the television contract could be worth $4 billion or twice the purchase price for the tea >> srnivasan: let tal a ttle bit out the magic factor here. almost all the headlines today, he's just one of the owners of the group. how much does magic johnson mean to this deal? >> he means that his winning lineage with the lakers and his megawatt smile have all of a sudden, by themselves, lifted a cloud that has plagued the dodgers and their fans for the last three years. he's not going to be the day-to-day manager of the team. he's not going to run everything in the business operations but he'll be there. he'll be around, and he'll be the face of the dodgers. >> sreivasan: sone partof thats already congrue. it seems i s readng the "times" today, and some fans are celebrating faz it was 1988, the last time they won the world series. >> yeah, it's been way, way too long for a legendary franchise
with large-market resources, the world series should not be an accident, and we have a whole generation of people in los angeles who have grown up without ever seeing their team play in the world series. >> sreenivasan: does this do enough to unite that fan base? it seems the people there like the dodgers. they just didn't like the last owner. >> well, there are a comnation of a lot of ings tha happen t ctaiy t ownership struggle was part of it. the dodgers have two of the very best players in baseball, and matt kempt, their center fielder, and clayton cerks rshaw, the pitcher, and what this deal does is puts the focus back on the players and takes it off the divorce court and bankruptcy court can which has preoccupied donnellers and their fans the last three years. >> sreenivasan: when we talk about the players, there are already other teams wondering if you have this kind of money to buy the team, do you have a whole bunch of extra mon t starticking ry epense players around the league? >> well, when i spoke with magic
johnson today here, spoke very glowingly and almost enviously that the cross-town angels picked up albhert puljos this winter, and who is to say the dodgers won't make a similar miewfl next winter, but certainly they have the resources to apply now to a baseball team instead of bankruptcy lawyers. >> sreenivasan: is there a sports team that you can think of that could come close to this kind of valuation? >> nothis is denity a world-record price for a sports franchise. it beats anything in the english premiere league, the gold standard for sports leagues in the world. but again, it's a combination of circumstances -- a private auction, a television contract coming up, and many, many qualified bidders trying to get in on the action. >> sreenivasan: all right, bill shaikin from the liems, thank you for your time. >> thank you. >> brown: again, the major developments of the day: the u.s. supreme court wrapped up three days of hearings on the
health care overhaul. t jusces consided a key question: if they strike down the insurance mandate, can the rest of the law survive? and republican presidential candidate newt gingrich confirmed he is running low on money and drastically scaling back his campaign. >> ifill: on our website, we look at a new study about the atmosphere of the ancient earth. researchers looked at fossilized raindrop impressions in 2.7-billion-year-old volcanic ash. their findings could help us understand how life could have survived with less sunlight long ago. fi theetai on r scnce ge. andn arbeat, we feature a new exhibit at the denver art museum. "yves saint laurent: the retrospective" explores the influential french fashion designer's work. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. and that's the "newshour" for tonight. on thursday, we'll have a rare inside look at burma as it readies for parliamentary elections on sunday. i'm gwen ifill >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. we'll see you online and again
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